Shop Class for Democracy


About Shop Class for Democracy

The Shop Class for Democracy program is a novel initiative which aims to prepare the next generation of citizens for educated and effective political involvement. While universities across the country have long taught their students the rights and obligations of citizens in society, giving students the experience of being a citizen is a far newer idea. Shop Class for Democracy is not only structured to educate students on political issues, but is designed to give them real-world practice in the action of being a citizen.


The Strategy

The format for the Shop Class for Democracy program involves expanding IDEA’s previous work with Deliberative Forums, which have been repeatedly shown to have a host of positive effects on their participants. The deliberative democracy literature, including Dr. Michael Neblo’s Politics With the People, has repeatedly proven that these activities increase in their participants a sense of efficacy and trust in democratic institutions while also reducing affective polarization (the tendency for partisans to view other political parties negatively). 

Our Deliberative Forums will build students’ skills in critical thinking, dialoging across differences, and deliberative decision-making and promoting stronger commitment to democratic values and institutions. In offering this experience to all Freshman students, Ohio State will build an academic infrastructure among departments and staff that will extend deliberative discussion to a diverse array of subjects – not just political science. Students will have the power to engage in deliberative discussions on their own issues, expanding their comprehension in a multi-dimensional manner. The vision for the Shop Class for Democracy program is to reach as many first-year students as possible this Fall of 2022, to involve all first-years at all campuses in Fall 2023, and to expand this capacity so every undergraduate student at all campuses will have experienced a deliberative forum within five years. 


How it Works

  1. In September 2022, the entire incoming first-year class (some 7,000 students) will be invited to participate in a pre-survey, wherein students will answer questions regarding their attitudes, trust, and sense of efficacy regarding the political system. 
  2. From September through October 2022, half of the first-year class (some 3,500 students) will participate in a series of structured, small-group Deliberative Forums using the Common Ground for Action platform. Each small group will have a maximum number of 12-15participants in order to accentuate the impacts of personal discussion and deliberation. 
  3. In November 2022, the entire first-year class will be invited to participate in a post-survey of identical design to the pre-survey. By designing the Shop Class for Democracy program with a control group (those who did not engage in the Deliberative Forums) and a study group (those who did) IDEA will be able to clearly measure the impact such participation has on attitudes, trust, and a sense of efficacy.